Workforce

A window into the federal soul

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Technology presents a two-fold challenge for government in the digital age. Not only does the implementation of innovation sometimes fail to hit its mark, as seen with HealthCare.gov, but that same technology also makes government more transparent and amplifies citizen scrutiny.

"It's the change in the consumer, or in our case the citizens, and their ability to be empowered and enabled through technology that is giving them a voice that they didn't have before," Mark Langley, president and CEO of the Project Management Institute, recently said at a Capitol Hill briefing.

Also featured at the briefing were Reps. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), co-chairmen of the Government Efficiency Caucus, which grapples with how to use technology and bolster the workforce to improve service.

"Whether it's related to government websites, or deploying new equipment to our troops in an effective and timely manner or dealing with waste, fraud and abuse, my constituents regardless of party affiliation have some real interest in this topic,” Young said. “Part of it is an operational concern. They feel like we ought to be providing better services."

And that’s where the human element enters.

If technology magnifies and makes transparent, that larger figure that the customer is now seeing more clearly is probably involved in a public-facing enterprise, even if they are not a point of direct contact.

One of the focuses of a recent PMI report was talent management, which is also a substantial focus of the president’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

Tom Greiner, managing director of technology for Accenture Federal Services, which worked on HealthCare.gov, said at the briefing there is a lack of training in both the public and private sectors.

"I think in the federal space, it's a little bit more of a free-for-all of a training,” Greiner said. “I don't know how prescriptive the curricula is set so that people are building skills in a meaningful way to progress up a career track.”

Successful talent management, whether in the form of training on a regular basis or initiating and enforcing process standards, results in higher quality products and services that have a better chance of passing muster.

Greiner said he suspects federal talent management is more disparate than streamlined, with “a personal interest navigation of graduate classes here, maybe a certification there.”

But it’s still more efficient to create than to find, Greiner contended.

"We find it's easier and less expensive to build the skills and to train people than it is to go get them from the marketplace once they've already been developed," he said.

But there might be an exception to that rule.

"Now it's a more specialized focused recruiting coming in, so they're liable to have the interest and aptitude to go through that training and be engaged in it, versus a psych major who you try to get them to code Java and they'll be like, ‘well how does Java feel about that. '"

About the Author

Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

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Reader comments

Fri, Mar 14, 2014

To all who were interviewed for this article: You need to get down here with the regular staff to get the real lay of the land. You can't get any meaningful, serious training without some reduction in your current job responsibilities. No department is going to pay for that. Just try running it by Congress. (They already think that they pay me too much.) Private companies of all sizes and types, from small HVAC contractors to mega corporations do not develop their talent, and have not done so for years, and then complain that there are no qualified and experienced candidates. Does the Project Management Institute or Accenture develop their own talent? Trying to do anything about poor or non-extent training is much harder that you think. You're starting from less than zero since you're dealing with a large group of people who do not trust you. And please don't turn around and push this back on me. You'll only make me feel more resentful and discouraged. The bottom needs solid and consistent support and encouragement from the top to grow and flourish. You have a lot of work to do. Are you up for the challenge?

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